Boots on the Ground: America's War in Vietnam
The history of this era is complex; the cultural impact extraordinary. But it's the personal stories of eight people--six American soldiers, one American nurse, and one Vietnamese refugee--that form the heartbeat of Boots on the Ground. From dense jungles and terrifying firefights to chaotic medic rescues and evacuations, each individual's story reveals a different facet of the war and moves readers forward in time. Alternating with these chapters are profiles of key American leaders and events, reminding readers what was happening at home, including Kent State, Woodstock, and Watergate.
Flipping perspective from the home front to the battle front we hear how events abroad were received and interpreted by those involved, and those who were witnessing events through television or campus activity. Arranged in chronological order, we are able to see the changes in the political administration, the opinions of citizens, and the conditions for soldiers as well as ordinary people trying to survive in Vietnam. This historical progression continues up until the dedication of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. in the early 1980s.
I found it particularly interesting that the author was a senior in high school in 1968, and was active in protesting the war while on a college campus... for a while. The most striking part of the entire book for me was the foreword, since her personal reflections are indicative of what I believe the vast majority of the population felt about the conflict. She and friends were traveling and picked up a hitchhiker (people did, then) who turned out to have been returning from Vietnam. Since the group was not particularly supportive of the military, they maintained a polite silence but let the man spend the night with them rather than turn him out in the cold. I recently read a fiction book that talked about the problems faced by a conscientious objector who was vilified by his neighbors. While admittedly very young at the time (I attended kindergarten in Kent, Ohio starting in the fall of 1970 and my father was a graduate student at Kent State), my recollections were more that few people talked about Vietnam, but everyone was sensitive that those who served had a difficult time, and those who lost family members also had a hard time dealing with the situation. The foreword seems to corroborate this feeling.